The homeless man made his first emergency call to police at 6 a.m. Friday. From a call box in the below-ground concourse of the Municipal Services Building, he kept calling – and hanging up. Calling – and hanging up. After the 40th time, a police officer was dispatched at 8:25 a.m. to see what was going on. But what started as a response to disorderly conduct ended with two police officers fatally shooting the homeless man – the 12th person killed by police this year.

Police were withholding the identity of the 59-year-old African-American man, pending the notification of his family, said Sgt. Ray Evers, a police spokesman. Evers said the man had no identification on him and had to be identified using fingerprints. Both the Homicide Unit and police Internal Affairs are investigating the shooting. Both officers, whose names were not released, have been on the force for more than 20 years.

After arriving on the scene, the foot patrol officer was joined by bike officer. Evers said as the patrol officer approached the man, he was once again using the emergency call box. “He confronted him, saying, ‘What are you doing? You can’t do that,’ ” Evers said. A security guard inside the municipal building, who did not give her name, said she saw the officers chase the man through a tunnel leading to the concourse. Once he was outside near the bench where he often slept, the man pulled out a utility knife. Evers said the knife was the type used to cut dry wall or carpet. “The officer tells him over 50 times to drop the knife,” Evers said. Police said he lunged at the officers. They fired, hitting the man in the torso. LINK

They fired, hitting the man in the torso. That’s where we come in. I knew something was up when I saw the news helicopter hovering around the City Hall area. With no real traffic on this long holiday weekend there wasn’t much of a rush hour this morning. So a hovering news helicopter in that area of town is out of the ordinary. Just as I was noticing the hovering helicopter, our engine and medics got the call for a shooting, just yards from city hall. Mystery solved.

We had no idea that this was a police-involved shooting. When the engine returned they told us their tale. There was a man down with dozens of police officers swarming the area. The police had shot a homeless man in the subway after he attacked them with a box cutter. It wasn’t long before the story hit the local airways. It’s amazing how wrong news reports (especially initial reports) often are. The final story bears some resemblance to what really happened. What the news didn’t mention is that the security guard they quoted is a prior convict with a bunch of convictions. ‘Nuff said.

The medics tried to save the man, but there wasn’t much that could be done. There is a trauma center about three blocks away but even that wasn’t enough. Our guys did confirm that the man still had the box cutter clenched in his hand when they arrived. It’s not uncommon for the homeless to arm themselves with knives and box cutters. Their violent world is up close and personal, and a box cutter in close quarters is a savage weapon.

There is a bigger issue here beyond this confrontation, though. It is simply a tragedy that didn’t have to happen. Since the courts have ruled that homeless, drug addicted,  mental patients are allowed to roam our streets freely and terrorize law abiding citizens, we have to put up with people who are in desperate need of institutionalization and treatment. Some argue that putting them in mental homes where they belong costs money we don’t have. That is a false argument. It costs a boatload of money to let them constantly drain law enforcement, emergency services, and hospital resources right now.

This is a glaring example of judicial activism and its implications for society. It is also an example of how a liberal city chooses not only to ignore a social problem, but foster it at the same time. The city refuses to clear the underground passages around the subway system, despite there being at least four shelters in the immediate area. After dark, the subway often resembles a scene out of a science fiction movie – where zombies have taken over the planet. I would not go down there unless I was working. Nice, huh?

Needless to say, this was the main event of our day. Since the man died, both the engine and medic unit crews had to be interviewed by detectives. Of course, we fed them lunch and cooperated with their investigation. Often when the police are involved in shootings people claim to be witnesses who are not. It is not beyond some people to make up stories and flat out lie to investigators just to take a police officer down. The detectives seemed pretty happy to have reliable witnesses for a change.

To a man we were glad it wasn’t a police officer being transported to the trauma center this time. Sooner or later, the politicians have to wise up and come to terms with the fact these feel good liberal attitudes and policies are failures. Until then, we will continue to see deadly confrontations with these urban zombies.

And the wheel goes round…


  1. Ingineer66 says:

    We had a suicide by cop here recently. A guy called 911 and said he had a gun and was going to shoot himself. When the cops got there he talked to them a while then pointed a shotgun at them. When they said drop it, he raised it as if to fire and pointed it directly at some of the cops. Four of them fired hitting him. When most of us have a bad day at the office it does not involve killing people. But when you are a cop or soldier a bad day is different.

    Like you said we used to put these folks in institutions but that was deemed inhumane. But somehow letting them live in parks and subways and panhandle for cigarette money is somehow humane. I say lock them up and if they prove they can function in society then let them try. Having them bother and rob and kill the rest of us is not right.

  2. Wyatt Earp says:

    Worst place in town to threaten a police officer. At any given moment, there are dozens of us in that area.

  3. John D says:

    “What the news didn’t mention is that the security guard they quoted is a prior convict with a bunch of convictions.”

    Sounds like PA isn’t very stringent in the licensing of security guards. Bad thing, that. Very bad.

    Sadly, the “homeless” are nothing more than an abstraction to most policy-makers. The people who deal with them every day know the real truth: they are almost all either mentally ill or chemically addicted or both. And they can’t be trusted to stay on their meds or stay off the booze/drugs. Allowing them to roam the streets is anything but “compassionate.”

  4. Old NFO says:

    Sorry for the officers, and glad he went off on the cops rather than an unarmed civilian. This story could have been a LOT different.

  5. RT says:

    Well said, Captain. That lack of true care given to folks who left to roam the streets is deplorable, and yet the yappy left claims it is for the civil liberties of those folks.

  6. wagonsx says:

    As a young cop I walked a beat in Center City. It was about 8am on a weekday, I was dispatched to chase a homeless man from the concourse at 15th and Market Streets.

    The ‘homeless man’ was laying in the concourse forcing the commuters to walk around him. I got his attention with a “gentle” tap on his feet with my night stick. He jumped up and lunged at me with the biggest knife I ever saw. Really it wasn’t that big, but it scared the hell out of me. I was able to wrestle the knife from his hand with little trouble, but we fought hard for what seemed like forever. While we were fighting, the commuting masses just walked on by. There were a few that made comments that were not in my favor. NO ONE STOPPED TO HELP ME. Thankfully I was younger and in better shape than the crazy man I was fighting. In the beginning, I would have been justified in shooting him. But I doubt there would have had any witnesses to defend me if I had shot him.

    I dealt with more crazy homeless people on my small beat in Suburban Station than anywhere else I’ve worked in the Police Department, but it was still my favorite assignment.

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